Issue Date: September 1, 2008
Hanford's B Reactor Gets Landmark Status
The world's first industrial-scale nuclear reactor—one designed specifically to generate plutonium for nuclear weapons—has been designated a National Historic Landmark by the Department of Interior's National Park Service. The B Reactor at the Department of Energy's Hanford Site in Washington produced plutonium from 1944 to 1968, and its water-cooled, graphite-moderated design served as the model for later U.S. nuclear reactors. Its plutonium was used for the first atomic device tested at the Trinity Test Site near Alamogordo, N.M., in mid-July 1945. A few weeks later, its plutonium formed the core of Fat Man, the fission bomb that exploded over Nagasaki, Japan, ending World War II and the lives of some 80,000 Japanese people. DOE plans to improve Hanford's infrastructure to allow more public tours of the remote B Reactor; currently, about 50 tour groups visit the B Reactor each year. Four other Manhattan Project sites bear the historic designation: the Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory, Oak Ridge's X-10 Graphite Reactor, the Trinity site, and the University of Chicago's Pile 1, where the first fission chain reactions were observed. Five of the nine Hanford plutonium reactors have been "cocooned," or dismantled and encased in concrete, which is the goal for the others???with the exception of the B Reactor.
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